Patrick Williams

Billy Donovan, Bulls express desire to keep Patrick Williams long-term

Before Saturday's game, Donovan made clear the Bulls' intention to keep Patrick Williams long-term

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Patrick Williams has been the talk of the town for the Bulls. And not in a positive way.

On Friday, Billy Donovan opted to pull Williams from the starting lineup and bring him off the bench. Torrey Craig got the starting nod at the forward spot; he did so again on Saturday night against the Nuggets.

Don't read too deep into that, says the Bulls. Before Saturday's loss to the Nuggets, Donovan praised Williams and ascertained his and the organization's desire to keep him around long-term.

"I do know that the goal is to have Patrick here for the long term," Donovan said. "That, I would say, has been pretty consistent all the way through."

Williams represents the current front office's first-ever draft selection with the Bulls. Vice President of Basketball Operations Artūras Karnišovas and general manager Marc Eversley drafted Williams with the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft out of Florida State.

Known for his defensive prowess, physicality and sixth-man abilities (won Sixth-Man of the Year for the ACC conference), he came in with comparisons of playing similarly to Kawhi Leonard. His size, knack for mid-range jump shots and tenacious defense showed as much.

Unfortunately, the name of Williams' game has been "aggressiveness," or a lack thereof. He's been plugged into offensively talented lineups, such as this season's with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

Because of that, he hasn't seen, or taken, many opportunities to try and score the ball himself. As a rookie, he constantly passed on open jump shots and stuck to the defensive end. He's grown since then, but not up to the level fans want to see him as a former top-four pick in the draft.

This season, Williams started horrendously on the offensive side of the ball, underlining the disappointing theme of his game. He penned two scoreless games between three straight contests heading into Friday's game. Williams, at one point, was shooting below 30% from the field and below 20% from beyond the arc.

Those numbers won't suffice in a starting lineup.

Hence, Donovan sent Williams to the bench. Albeit, that was the correct move. It's a tough pill to swallow for a top pick in the draft. But giving Williams more opportunities to build his confidence and score the basketball with the second unit is exactly what the doctor prescribed.

It took effect on Friday night. Williams scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, flashing his capabilities on both sides of the ball. It wasn't the prettiest game on paper, but it was certainly his best of the season.

More importantly, he wasn't fazed by the Bulls' decision to shift him to the second platoon.

"I've always said, whenever my name's called, whatever I can do for the team, I always will and just play my game," Williams said Friday.

For that, Williams earned a token of respect from the Bulls. It's not easy to take that hit at a young age and bounce back. But Williams took it head-on and stuck to a healthy, team-oriented mentality.

Is that one of the reasons the Bulls want to keep Williams around?

They've always thought the world of his potential, and that hasn't appeared to change. But it's curious what gives the Bulls hope Williams can become what they expect him to be.

As I mentioned, he's grown since his rookie year, but he hasn't taken that leap the Bulls need from him.

But it appears the Bulls still have faith he can make that jump.

"I do feel inside the organization, we all feel, including Artūras and Marc ourselves, I think our team, I do as a coach, that at 22 years old, he's got the potential and the ability to be a really good player," Donovan said. "And I would say if he was not here and evolved into (a really good player), I would not be surprised. I just wouldn't."

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